Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Galls on leaves on top of mustang grapes

with 29 comments

Galls on Leaves on Mustang Grapes 9871

When I wandered through part of Northeast Metro Park in Pflugerville on July 28th I photographed these two leaves with galls in them. Beneath the leaves you see mustang grapes, Vitis mustangensis, that had fallen on the ground from a nearby vine and were in various stages of decay and the concomitant shapes and colors.

You probably remember seeing some mustang grape tendrils recently, but a couple of years ago I showed the opposite end of the scale, namely a venerable mustang grape vine that had become as thick as a tree. And then there was another thick one with a yellow-crowned night heron perched on it.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2014 at 5:56 AM

29 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Delicious decay.


    August 26, 2014 at 6:43 AM

    • Speaking of your adjective, I sampled a couple of grapes that were still on the vine and found what I expected based on experience: the flesh was all right but the skin was too tart to be tasty. I also noticed that the chewy flesh clung to its seeds more tightly than I remembered.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2014 at 7:04 AM

      • A common backyard garden grape in New Zealand has a tart, dark skin. I usually blanch them, then remove the skin, if I desperately want to eat them.


        August 26, 2014 at 8:42 AM

        • These haven’t generally been considered eating grapes. Anglo pioneers in Texas turned them into jelly and wine, and some people still do.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 26, 2014 at 12:24 PM

  2. A terrific organic still life. I haven’t heard of mustang grapes before, Steve. Is there a story behind that name?


    August 26, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    • A still life: I hadn’t thought about that but I’m happy to hear you see the picture that way.

      I assume the grapes were named after the mustang horses in Texas, but I haven’t found any source that confirms that or explains what the connection would have been.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      • Is it possible that etymology’s the clue? I looked up “mustang,” and found it comes from Mexican Spanish mestengo: “animal that strays” (16c.). That in turn comes from Spanish mestengo: “wild, stray, ownerless,” The grapes certainly are as wild, stray and ownerless as any of the horses. It seems a reasonable connection.


        August 26, 2014 at 5:57 PM

        • I pondered this a couple of years ago:


          I still don’t know, but my guess is that by the time Anglo settlers adopted the term “mustang grape” in the 1800s, the overwhelming association they would have had with the word mustang was the “horsenesss” of a mustang, in the same way that they apparently felt horsemints smelled like horses. The problem I have with the hypothesis of a connection to notions of “wild, stray, ownerless” is that any of the various other grape species native in Texas were equally wild, stray, and ownerless.

          Of course that’s just my hunch, and you could still be right. I’ve never seriously pursued this, but there are probably historical documents somewhere that explain the name, and maybe one day I’ll luck out and come across one.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 26, 2014 at 7:46 PM

          • Maybe one of the good wineries, like Llano Estacado, would be a place to start. The vinters certainly know the history of the grape, and they might know the history of the name. Or, the reference librarian in Grapevine, Texas might know, since their city was named after the mustang grapevines in the area.


            August 26, 2014 at 7:59 PM

            • Thanks for those good suggestions.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 26, 2014 at 8:06 PM

              • And thanks to both of you for taking the time to follow up on my query. Next time I’m in Texas, must look up that winery! -Gary


                August 26, 2014 at 10:07 PM

  3. Delicious shot! Lovely coloration, I can smell the sweetness of it all!


    August 26, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    • True enough, the rotting grapes can have a sweet smell and attract insects. For at least two centuries people in Texas have turned ripe mustang grapes into jelly, though a lot of the jelly’s sweetness comes from the added sugar.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2014 at 12:36 PM

  4. This a great study in textures and subtle colors, Steve.

    I’ve tried Fox Grapes in the wild….including my yard…and although they have a wonderful grapey aroma, as you found the skins are too bitter for my taste also. Unfortunately, I have not shared the heron experience on our grapes.

    Steve Gingold

    August 26, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    • Thanks for appreciating this study in textures and colors, Steve. As for fox grapes, I heard of them for the first time only hours ago, when I was searching for an explanation (which I didn’t find) of why mustang grapes are called what they are. In looking up fox grapes just now, I found in Wikipedia that they are “the source of many grape cultivars, including Catawba and Concord grapes…” Without fox grapes there wouldn’t have been the super-sweet Manischewitz wine I grew up with in New York.

      May a heron alight on one of your fox grape vines when you’re near by with a camera and a long lens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      • Thank goodness for cultivars. When I was a kid and way before I reached the legal age, it was a looked forward to treat at the Seder when I got to have some wine.
        Turnabout….I had never heard of mustang grapes until just now either.

        I’ll accept a heron on any perch…any heron….any perch…doing anything.

        Steve Gingold

        August 26, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        • Who knows, maybe the heron you find will be downing a bottle of Manischewitz.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 26, 2014 at 3:52 PM

          • I have seen robins staggering and falling out of bushes after eating too many fermented berries. I just can’t remember what kind of berries they were.

            What I really love about the photo is the way the galls echo not only the shape of the grapes, but even the openings where the stems were. More of nature’s analogies.


            August 26, 2014 at 6:08 PM

            • I’ve read tales of avian drunkenness, but I haven’t been as fortunate as you in seeing it for myself.

              Following up on your comment about the galls echoing the shapes of the grapes and the openings in them, I have a post coming up in a couple of weeks in which I comment that something (what could it be? suspense…) reminds me of these fallen grapes, and even specifically their openings.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 26, 2014 at 7:52 PM

              • I thought of a third thing myself, but I don’t believe you have them around Austin. Then, I thought of a fourth thing, which you do have. I’ll just have to live with the suspense. Maybe you’ll have a fifth thing!


                August 26, 2014 at 8:09 PM

                • I vote for a fifth thing because what I’ll be comparing isn’t at all obvious, at least not to me.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 26, 2014 at 9:50 PM

  5. I did not know it was possible to have galls on leaves…Great photo.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    August 27, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    • I can’t speak for Seattle, but galls on leaves are pretty common in Austin. Now that you’re aware of them, I’ll bet you start seeing some near you, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2014 at 4:14 AM

  6. This reminds me of a Still Life painting. Great detail and subtle colour


    August 27, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    • My art associations must have been away on vacation when I took the picture and prepared the post: I never thought about it as a still life, but you’re the second commenter to see it that way, so I’ll yield to you both.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2014 at 4:18 PM

  7. Beautiful! Well seen 🙂


    August 28, 2014 at 5:36 PM

  8. […] may be my strange imagination, but the butterfly’s eye looks to me like it could be one of the fallen mustang grapes I photographed a short distance away on the same […]

  9. […] that hazy patch to be a marking on the eye itself, and it was one of the things that reminded me of the fallen mustang grapes I photographed a short distance away on the same […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: